Some senators hit unauthorized COVID-19 vaccination of soldiers, officials
Robie de Guzman • December 29, 2020 • 503
MANILA, Philippines – Some senators have questioned the prioritization of some members of the military and government officials in the vaccination against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) sans the approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Senator Francis Pangilinan said the advance inoculation of these individuals is a reflection of the government’s unclear program on vaccination rollout.
“Akala ko ba mga medical frontliners at yung mga seniors at mas nasa peligrong kalagayan ng kalusugan ang uunahin?” Pangilinan said in a message to reporters
“Lumalabas na nagkanya-kanya ang mga nasa administrasyon sa pagbabakuna at nag-uunahan pa bago pa man maaprubahan ng FDA ang paggamit ng mga bakuna na ito sa bansa. Inunahan na ba ng Malakanyang ang FDA sa pagtiyak na ligtas nga ba ang mga bakuna na ito?” he added.
For Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, the immunization of some military personnel using an unregistered COVID-19 vaccine will not help in developing public confidence.
“Public confidence is critical to the successful inoculation f our people. Confidence is developed by adhering to a science-based process and the opinion of our vaccine expert panel,” Drilon said in a separate message.
“The inoculation using vaccines not approved by our FDA will not contribute to the need to develop public confidence that the government program will succeed,” he added.
For Senator Imee Marcos, the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccination should be done fairly and should prioritize those belonging to sectors vulnerable to the viral disease.
Senate President Vicente Sotto, however, said he sees nothing wrong with the vaccination among soldiers and some government officials as there is no law that prevents Filipinos from taking a vaccine that has yet to be approved by the country’s regulators.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong about that. There is no law that says you cannot take any medicine or vaccine that FDA has not approved,” he said in a message.
Over the weekend, President Rodrigo Duterte disclosed that many Filipinos have already received a COVID-19 vaccine from China even if regulators have yet to approve any vaccine for local use.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año and other military officials have confirmed on Monday that some soldiers, including those assigned in the Presidential Security Group, have been administered with COVID-19 vaccine. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)
MANILA, Philippines – All importations of COVID-19 vaccines will now be included in the “Mabuhay” or express lane of the Department of Finance to allow quick processing of the tax and duty exemptions of these shipments, the department said.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the DOF said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III approved the inclusion of vaccine imports to allow for the expedited processing of the tax and exemptions for vaccine applications.
Under Department Order 29-94, the Mabuhay Lane is tasked to expeditiously process applications for the tax and duty exemption of certain groups of importers, which include export-oriented firms, returning residents (balikbayans) and non-profit, non-stock educational institutions.
COVID-19 vaccine tax exemption applications in the Mabuhay Lane, which is under the DOF’s Revenue Office, will be processed within 24 working hours, the department said.
These tax exemption policies will be incorporated in the inter-agency guidelines on the implementation of a one-stop shop for international donations and government-procured COVID-19 vaccines, the department added.
Dominguez also approved the waiving of filing fees for COVID-19 vaccine applications under the Mabuhay Lane and the use of the Tax Exemption System Online Filing Module in processing the vaccine imports “to further support the government’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination program.”
“We add that the Mabuhay Lane currently processes all Relief Consignment under Section 120 in relation to 121 of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA). The Lane is expected to process all COVID-19 vaccines which may qualify as relief consignment,” Finance Undersecretary Antonette Tionko said.
Relief Consignment refers to goods donated to national government agencies and accredited private entities for free distribution to, or for the use of, victims of calamities.
Under Section 121 of the CMTA, relief consignment imported during a state of calamity and intended for the use of calamity victims shall be exempted from the payment of duties and taxes.
MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the government cannot grant absolute and blanket immunity to vaccine manufacturers, saying it is against the law and contrary to public policy.
Drilon issued the statement in support of National Task Force (NTF) COVID-19 and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., who earlier said that the government cannot agree to a full immunity for vaccine makers.
Galvez revealed late Wednesday that there are vaccine makers that demand full immunity but said the government cannot do so out of concern over malpractices and willful misconduct.
“Under the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act Congress passed last February 22, COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers are immune from suits for claims arising out of the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine, but not for willful misconduct or gross negligence,” Drilon said.
The senator cited Section 8 of the said measure which states that “notwithstanding any law to the contrary, public officials and employees, contractors, manufacturers, volunteers, and representatives of duly authorized private entities who are duly authorized to carry out and are actually carrying out the COVID-19 vaccination program shall be immune from suit and liability under Philippine laws with respect to all claims arising out, related to, or resulting from the administration or use of a COVID-19 vaccine under the COVID-19 vaccination program except arising from willful misconduct and gross negligence.”
“The government cannot extend a blanket immunity to vaccine manufacturers as it is against the law and contrary to public policy,” Drilon said.
The lawmaker, however, noted that any vaccine recipient can file claims for damages, based on the vaccine manufacturers’ liabilities arising from willful misconduct and gross negligence.
“It is part of their individual and private rights that cannot be set aside by the government,” he explained.
According to Drilon, gross negligence is defined by the Supreme Court as “negligence characterized by the want of even slight care, or by acting or omitting to act in a situation where there is a duty to act, not inadvertently but willfully and intentionally, with a conscious indifference to the consequences, insofar as other persons may be affected.”
Willful misconduct, on the other hand, exists where the acts “were impelled by an intention to violate the law, or were in persistent disregard of one’s rights, as evidenced by a flagrantly or shamefully wrong or improper conduct.”
Drilon also said the establishment of an indemnity fund to compensate inoculated individuals who would experience severe adverse effects is also provided in the measure.
“The government set up the an indemnity fund to compensate any person inoculated through the vaccination program. The indemnity fund will take care of the costs for deaths, permanent disabilities and hospital confinements caused by vaccination”, Drilon said.
The bill likewise earmarked P500 million of the President’s P13 billion contingent fund for the COVID-19 National Vaccine Indemnity Fund. It will be administered by PhilHealth.
Drilon said the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Law will not only expedite the purchase and administration of vaccines but also sets aside money to secure the interest of the people against unforeseen effects thereof.
The proposed vaccine bill is now up for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature.
MANILA, Philippines – The vaccination of military personnel against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) will be mandatory although the soldiers can choose which brand to receive, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Thursday.
In a virtual press briefing, AFP Spokesperson Major General Edgard Arevalo said all soldiers will be obliged to get inoculated as ordered by AFP chief of staff Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana.
The directive came even as the military has yet to ascertain where its vaccine supply will be coming from, or if they are among those who will receive the first 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines donated by the Chinese government.
“Ang Sandatahang Lakas ng Pilipinas po is not like any ordinary organizations. Tayo po ay nasa service-orientated organization. Tayo po ang inaasahan sa napakaraming mabibigat na tungkulin kagaya nga po ng pagharap sa pandemya as early as 2020. Kaya sinabi natin na hindi opsyon ang pag-ayaw. Subalit kinikilala natin yung kanilang kagustuhan ng brand na gusto nila” he said.
Military personnel who will be choosing other brands of the vaccine will need to pay for their own jabs, Arevalo said.
Those who refuse to get vaccinated will face sanctions under military rules, he added.
“We are an organization under military regulations. So, ang pagtupad sa mga regulasyon o sa mga tinatadhana ng existing legal orders buhat sa ating mga superiors just like this one from the AFP Chief of Staff, no less, will be dealt with disciplinary actions kung hindi nila susundin,” he said.
“But we are confident na hindi na tayo darating sa punto na iyon,” he added.
The AFP said all its employees and troops assigned in the medical and healthcare units will be the first to get inoculated against COVID-19.
The donated Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines from China are expected to arrive in the country this weekend. –RRD (with details from Correspondent Joan Nano)
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